Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter Cold and Mushroom Barley Soup

Yom revi'i, 7 Shevat 5774.

It's been about a month since Snowfesh Hagadol, the big snowstorm of 2013.

Being snowed in for a few days has long been a favorite Eastman tradition; and it is always a pleasure to be able to recreate this rare experience in the Holy Land. Rather than suffering "cabin fever," as many people do, we enjoy being locked up together, with no particular place to go.

I did say "well-used," yes? Click to embiggen.
There is also the opportunity to make delicious soups, more welcome even than in normal cold weather. During the storm, I decided to pull out my trusty and well-used Moosewood Cookbook (1977), by Mollie Katzen, and make her Mushroom-Barley Soup, a favorite of all my guys.

Over the years, I've learned many tricks about cooking, from -- among others -- my mother, and from my friend  Marc Gottlieb (who is a chef de cuisine and fellow blogger).

Mama taught me about choosing mushrooms, and about how to prepare them. Fresh mushrooms still have closed caps. (You can certainly still use mushrooms once the caps have begun to open; but they are nicest when still closed.) She taught me not to wash mushrooms, lest the water cause them to break down and get mushy. Rather, she recommended peeling the mushrooms to expose the lovely white flesh underneath. Marc and I disagree about the necessity for this -- but sometimes tradition wins out.

Marc taught me a wonderful little secret about garlic. Every year at Pesach time, I buy bunches of fresh garlic at the shuk, and hang them outside to dry. In the past, I would throw away the long stalk, and only use the head of the garlic. But tucked away inside the stalk are several little "baby garlics," quite intense in flavor and -- let's face it -- adorable.
Hidden gold, and worth the effort.
Who would have thought garlic could be cute?
So putting the soup together is straightforward, but photo-worthy.

I have not yet found dry sherry in Israel; so I settle for dry white wine.
This kashrut symbol delights me, as it points out that the factory is Sabbath-observant.

A chance to show off a favorite invention: the French butter keeper. The butter stays fresh and spreadable, on the counter. Every once in a while, I understand Julia Child's fascination with French cookery.

Another tool I love. Besides mincing everything from garlic to herbs to nuts beautifully, this curved board and blade are very cathartic. Ask all of the seminary girls who've come to my kitchen and methodically chopped their anxieties to bits.
Sauté onion in butter. Add garlic.
Now it's time for the mushrooms. (Do I hear my Dearly Beloved in the background? "But there's not mush room in the pan..." Yes, his jokes are old. But he is such a fun guy.)

This soup is great "as is" -- but a little grated Parmesan makes it perfect.

And √† la La Child -- don't forget the nice, crisp white wine.

 A month ago, I rewarded the Dearly Beloved for cleaning the thirty-three steps down to our apartment of ice with a nice, hot bowl of soup. (Note to self: never take for granted that your husband is easy to please.)

Taking out all the recycling in that weather earned him seconds. (Thank you, dear friend.)
I love warm, sunny weather. I love spring breezes and crisp autumn chill. I love winter, with its time for solitude and introspection, getting close and warming ourselves over hot soup and warm friendship.

Yesterday, I got the pleasure of making the soup again for very special friends, my mechutenet, and for my friend and fellow blogger Shprintz. (You can check out her heartwarming posts about the Israel she loves and misses at her blog Remember Jerusalem, dedicated to her dear father, "Avraham Shalom ben Chaim Yoel, a"h, whose flair for photography, penchant for prose and love of the Land inspire" her blog.

My bracha to all of us: May we share many bowls of soup, over long, healthy, happy years... right here in Israel.

Mollie's Mushroom-Barley Soup ingredients
Snowfesh Hagadol: An invented term, "the great snow vacation." The word for vacation is "chofesh." Some clever wag pointed out that the snow was giving us a big vacation, a "snowfesh" gadol.
Kashrut: kosher, according to Jewish dietary laws
Mechutenet: This word does not exist in English. It means "my married child's spouse's mother." But it's not referring to my son's relationship with his mother-in-law. That word would be "chotenet" or "chamot." What makes this designation unique is that it refers to my relationship with my son's mother-in-law. Cool, eh?


  1. I also learned to make mushroom barley soup from Mollie Katzen. And my version of her first cookbook looks a bit like that, too.

    1. I love her cookbook! Glad to hear you've sloshed interesting concoctions on your pages, too, Leora. :-)

  2. ;-) ;-) ;-) I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

    1. Thanks for sharing my happiness at getting to spend time with you in person again.

  3. excellent - one of my favourites! I love adding in some dried mushrooms with their soaking water for additional flavour and textures.

    1. It IS better that way. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. I have a pot of many bean soup on the stove right now.

    1. Ahhhhh... sounds good, and warming. Stay healthy and safe!

  5. Although it is summer here in NZ, we have had a very wet few weeks at the foot of the Tararua ranges. I am going to make this soup in your dear honour. Big hugs from Kiwi Noa

    1. I think it will taste especially good, in the Land of the Long White Cloud. ;-)

  6. Ruti,
    Those little 'baby garlic' are the seeds we plant in the fall for next summer's garlic. You never run out of fresh garlic. The recipe sounds delish. I will try and make. Thanks for your great blog!

    1. Thank you for the tip, Linda. I'll give it a try!